With Cardiff victory, Manchester’s Reds put on united front after Jose Mourinho exit

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba celebrates the fifth goal against Cardiff City. (AP)
Updated 24 December 2018

With Cardiff victory, Manchester’s Reds put on united front after Jose Mourinho exit

  • United captain Ashley Young admitted the mood around Old Trafford had been instantly lifted with Solskjaer’s appointment
  • Manchester United players put on a unified front when questioned about the sacking of former manager Jose Mourinho

LONDON: After thrashing Cardiff City 5-1 in the Premier League on Saturday, Manchester United players put on a unified front when questioned about the sacking of former manager Jose Mourinho.
United captain Ashley Young admitted the mood around Old Trafford had been instantly lifted by caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s “smile,” but denied there were any celebrations in the dressing room at news of Jose Mourinho’s sacking.
Solskjaer is now in temporary charge at Old Trafford until the end of the season after Mourinho was dismissed on Tuesday with United 19 points off the top of the table.
“I don’t think he (Solskjaer) has stopped smiling,” Young said after victory in the Welsh capital.
“He was like that as a player. He always has a smile on his face and I think that can reflect down on to the team, which is a good thing.
“Ole has come in and we were preparing in the right way for a game, even though it’s been a crazy week.”
And Young dismissed any suggestion players were delighted to see the back of Mourinho.
“No celebrations at all. Absolute lies.
“Obviously it was disappointing for the manager to get sacked. In his two-and-a-half years he won trophies. We have to take some responsibility for that as we are on the pitch.
“But we have to move on from that. As professional players we have to get on with the job in hand, and that is what we did here.”
Mourinho clashed with a number of senior figures in the United dressing room over his two-and-a-half seasons in charge.
One of the most high-profile players the Portuguese had a public spat with was World Cup-winner Paul Pogba.
But the Frenchman, who was restored to the starting line-up for the first time in four league games and was instrumental in setting up four of United’s five goals, thanked his former boss for helping him “improve as a person.”
“We won trophies with Jose and I want to thank him for that,” he said.
“He makes me improve, as a person as well, and that’s it. That’s the past, I want to thank him for that.
I’m sure that is the same for all the players and now we are looking forward to the next game,” he added.
Pogba said he and his teammates were now focused on helping United “go back to the top of the league” after they scored five goals in a league game for the first time since the final game of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign in 2013.
“The performance of the team was great and we are happy that the first game of the manager starts like this,” he said. “It’s important now to carry on like that.
“We cannot play like this and win with five goals and then the next game lose.”


Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.